December in Review

I’ve been meaning to update everyone on my fitness progress, but I’ve honestly been very discouraged so it was hard to motivate myself to blog. I made it through 5 weeks of Couch to 5K training and finished up my LIVESTRONG at the YMCA program as well. Unfortunately, at the beginning of December I started having quite a bit of pain. It began on the skins of my sides around my rib cage. At first my doctor was concerned it might be shingles. However, since it was on both sides and there was no apparent rash, they quickly eliminated that possibility since shingles generally only manifests on one side. I went for my quarterly check-up with my oncologist in early December and consulted her about it. Since my blood work came back fine, she wasn’t overly concerned. The following week the pain had spread around to my chest and back as well, so I went to my primary care manager for a follow-up. She thought it was a compressed vertebrae. Luckily my x-ray came back fine, but she told me to hold off running and doing any heavy lifting for up to 8 weeks. I’m feeling much better now, but I’ve been bummed out for the greater part of December.

I think the situation frustrated me on several levels. I have never been a fitness guru of any kind, and I didn’t feel like I had been attempting anything extremely difficult even by my own low standards. The fact that I had such a major physical set back so quickly was pretty discouraging.  I went through several phases of “my body will never be the same” “i feel fat” “why didn’t i take better care of myself when I was younger” etc. These feelings were also compounded by the fact that my body is still going through major hormonal swings due using lupron for six months and the adjustment to being off of it for about three months now. It’s pretty much like going through puberty all over again. complete with zits, mood swings… the  whole works. My hair is growing back very quickly (which is great), but its also coming in curley which I have no experience with and am not prepared to handle. I’ve been experimenting with hair product, but let’s just say a bad hair day is not uncommon. I’m also tired pretty much all the time and try to get at least nine hours of sleep so I’m functional. In addition to working full-time and commuting an hour each way, it doesn’t take much for me to go psycho feel overwhelmed.

However, I saw another Michael J. Fox interview a couple days ago and he said something along the lines of “My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectation.” Although I’m not comparing my situation to his by any means, his attitude really helped me reach acceptance of my own situation. I’m able to see how lucky I am for being alive, for being cancer free and able to even think about doing a half-marathon. My body did get me through cancer, chemo, several surgeries and radiation, so I can’t really knock it too much. So I’m going to take Mr. Fox’s advice and focus on what I can do and not what I can’t.

The team-in-training program I’m participating in has a training program for walkers, so while I’m still planning to do the half-marathon in April, my goal is to finish without putting pressure on myself to run the entirety or finish within a certain time. The team-in-training program starts at the end of January, so that should give me enough time to recover from my wonky back/skin issues and raise some funds to beat this stupid cancer thing. Once the “official” training starts, I’ll be able to have a better idea of what is realistic for me and set some goals accordingly. I spoke with my mentor for the first time over the Christmas holiday and I’m super stoked to meet some of these amazing people soon.

In other news, I was able to go to Kansas for the first time in more than a year to visit my parents and two of my sisters (along with their significant others.) I was so happy to be with them and the visit was way too short (as always.) I was especially happy to make the trip with my husband. Rene missed all the winter holidays last year due to his deployment to the Middle East. We stopped in Fort Sill, OK on our way up to see one of the areas he grew up. His family was stationed at Fort Sill twice while he was growing up, so he spent about 10 years there total, which is fairly unusual for an Army brat. It was very special for me to be able to share in some of those memories with him.

While we were in Kansas, it was extremely cold for this Louisiexan (or Texianian…whichever you prefer.) The majority of our time was spent indoors playing board games, watching movies, wrapping presents, and of course eating. My family couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a National Parks passport stamp though, and we did take a trip to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.

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National Park Stamps = Winning

While there, we decided to take what ultimately became a two mile hike in 20 something degree weather to attempt to see some buffalo. Sadly, the closer we came to the buffalo the further they would walk away from us. We ultimately “hike failed,” but the boys enjoyed throwing rocks at a frozen pond to see if they could break it (they couldn’t.) They then pondered walking across it (thankfully they didn’t.) I unfortunately didn’t get any photos of these exploits. As I said, it was really cold and my hands were firmly gloved and in my pockets the entire hike.

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My parents cat (Bumble) and dog (Little Bitty) thought it was cold too.

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25 Again

So its somehow been more than a month since I last posted! I had a pretty long break (about six weeks) between chemo and radiation. I could feel myself becoming more and more energetic and feeling like a normal 25-year-old again. Some of the things I was able to partake in during the break in treatment were:

1) Shaving with a normal razor!

I’d been using a special razor to shave my legs since chemo puts you at a high risk for infection, failure to clot properly, etc. Despite the fact I was losing hair everywhere else, my knees were starting to look like twin cacti and it was driving. me. crazy. Luckily, I’m back to using the faithful Venus razor. Unfortunately, I now have several spots I can’t shave due to a ridiculous rash brought on by chemo, but alas, at least the knees are under control now.

2) Eating!

Not only do I feel like eating more since I’m not feeling nauseous, but I’m also able to eat a larger variety of food! As I’m sure you remember from my early chemo entries, I wasn’t allow to eat fresh or raw foods and I had to sacrifice some of my favorite foods. After I got the green light from my doc to eat fresh foods again, the first place Rene and I went to was Taco Bell.

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Totally sexy, I know 😉

Taco Bell also happens to sponsor the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, we made sure to donate while we were there.

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We also had a sushi dinner with a few proud Team Laura representative the Friday after. It was probably the most satisfying meal of my life.

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3) Drinking and being social

Although there wasn’t really a rule against drinking during chemo, it wasn’t something I often felt like doing. I also figured with the large amounts of drugs in my system, it was probably wise to stay away from it. So with the exception of a rare glass of wine, I pretty much abstained from alcohol throughout chemo. Luckily the end of chemo coincided with the beginning of football season, so we’ve enjoyed throwing a few back at the LSU & SEC Alumni- Austin events.

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Rene, me, and my sister Theresa at the SEC Picnic in August

My friend Britni invited me to an Austin Beerworks brewery tour last week and I was actually able to go and partake in the festivities!

One of the silos at the Austin Beerworks Brewery.

Some other fancy beer making aperati.

4) Travel!

Although I still haven’t planned any huge trips (and won’t be able to for awhile), I’m more able to travel on the weekends. Rene and I went to Big Bend for Labor Day and had an amazing time. I have to say, traveling west from Austin is so much more relaxing than traveling east, south and north. When I travel in the other three directions in Texas, I feel like I constantly run into traffic and/or people try to kill me in their Texas-sized trucks. Traveling west toward Big Bend, we had zero traffic issues and once we hit I-10 we could legally go 80 MPH, which was pretty awesome too. We camped while we were in the park and got to see some pretty amazing sites.

the open road to Big Bend

Old farm equipment from when ranchers bravely settled in Big Bend about a century ago.

“The Window” rock formation at sunset.

Enjoying a smooch.

Our surprisingly comfortable but tight sleeping quarters in the tent cot. I definitely recommend sleeping off the ground as we saw many a gigantic bug, including a tarantula at our campsite.

The Rio Grande at Santa Elena Canyon. Mexico is in the background.

In other travels, we also won last minute tickets to the LSU vs. Idaho game a few weeks back through Gameday for Heroes. This is a great organization that receives and organizes donations form ticket holders and universities, and then distributes them to military service members and veterans. If you happen to have tickets you don’t plan to use, definitely consider making a donation to this organization. It came at a perfect time because I was in a total funk that week and feeling very homesick. I had to cancel a planned Memorial Day weekend trip to Louisiana because of cancer junk and then a Labor Day weekend trip because of Hurricane Gustav, so my toes were just itching to be back on Louisiana soil. It was sadly only for a weekend since both Rene & I had work the Friday & Saturday before, so we only spent about 36 hours total in Louisiana, but it was well worth the trip.

Cosmically, two Louisiana National Guard units were honored during half-time at the game for their response to Hurricane Gustav. Because of this, many of Rene’s ROTC buddies were also in Baton Rouge for the game, including Rene’s good friend, former roommate and best man, Jean-Claude. Sadly my phone was on the fritz, so this is the only pic we got of him while we were there!

I also met Kelsey for the first time while I was there. We somehow avoided meeting one another in college despite having the same major, graduating the same year, and having 45 or so mutual friends on Facebook. We happened to get cancer around the same time and became friends and supporters via the internet. You can follow Kelsey’s progress in the fight against ovarian cancer at Oh my Poisoned Apple.

Cancer friends and survivors.

 

That’s about all I have time for right now, but in a few days (I promise) I will give y’all a thorough update about what life is like during radiation.